ERIE, Ill. – It didn't take a review of the game video for Erie/Prophetstown football coach Chuck Milem to dissect his team's 24-14 loss to Stillman Valley on Saturday afternoon in the second round of the Illinois Class 2A playoffs. He could vividly recall the key handful of plays that swung the outcome in the Cardinals' favor.
Tristan Elliott was in on most of them.
Elliott rushed for a game-high 229 yards on 20 carries, but three of them were keys to the victory. Those three plays, along with two fumbles and a couple of penalties were all that stood between the Panthers and a trip to the state quarterfinals.
“There was that run, the turnovers and a couple of offside penalties,” Milem said.
“That was the difference in the game, in my opinion,” Erie/Prophetstown senior Chris Bauer said of those key plays.
Playing without three-year starting quarterback Ethan Howard didn't help E/P's chances, either. He suffered season-ending knee injuries in the first round.
None of Elliott's big plays was bigger than the first one.
With the Cardinals (9-2) facing a fourth down at their own 20-yard line and needing to go 3 yards, coach Mike Lalor elected to go for it instead of punting into a howling wind from the south.
“That deep, yeah, I was a little surprised, but we executed it good,” Elliott said of keeping the offense on the field for fourth down.
The Cardinals put the ball in Elliott's hands — the call a “56, a power run to the right,” he said — and once he burst through the line of scrimmage there was no one to stop him. The 80-yard dash, and the two-point conversion that followed, tied the game at 8-8 with 7 minutes, 29 seconds left in the half and changed the whole feel of the game.